Tag Archives: boise

Celebrating Boise’s Fronton

Anyone who has been to the Basque Country and visited any of the villages that dot the coast and the valleys between those peaks shrouded in mythology certainly knows the importance of the fronton to the Basque people. The plaza of most any town is often surrounded by the three corner-stones of Basque life: the Church, the tavern, and the fronton. I know best the one in my dad’s home town of Munitibar. Festivities may always begin with a mass at the Church, but they always center on the fronton, either a game of pelota or animal tests or a bertsolari contest. The fronton is the public space in which life happens.

The Basques who immigrated to the US brought their games with them. And, the fronton. A wonderful open-air fronton sits in my mom’s home town, Jordan Valley, Oregon. But, the oldest is in Boise. In fact, the fronton in Boise is probably one of the oldest sporting venues in the US. Like Wrigley Field in Chicago, it will turn 100 in 2014. The Jacobs-Uberuaga boarding house will turn 150 the same year. The Basque community in Boise is gearing up to celebrate these milestones, important not only in the history of Boise Basques, but Basques in the US as a whole. The fronton endures, just as the Basques have endured.

I personally am not overly familiar with Boise’s fronton. I may have stepped foot in it once as a kid. However, both Mark Bieter and Henar Chico have written wonderful testimonies about the role the Boise fronton has played in their lives. Mark describes the history of the fronton and how, to pelota players in the US, it is sort of the Wrigley Field of pelota. Henar, a newer resident of Boise, has become an aficionado of the fronton and the pala leagues that are very active. The fronton has become a very important part of her life in Boise. Both paint a picture, both past and present, of a building that has served as the cornerstone of the Boise Basque community for nearly 100 years. And, knowing the Basques, will likely be standing strong for another 100 years.

Memories of Jaialdi

The title of this post may strike some as romantic, but really it’s just that it has been so long since Jaialdi and taken me so long to do this post, that indeed I’m working on memories, and I don’t have the best of memories in the first place…

For those that don’t know, Jaialdi is the big Basque festival held every 5 years in Boise, Idaho over St. Ignatius weekend (the last weekend in July).  It brings Basques from all over the world together for a weekend of dance, music, sports, drink, and fun.  In fact, many come from the Basque Country itself, drawn by old friends or the reputation of a big party in the US, including my dad’s brother Antonio and his wife Eli, the first time they’ve come to the US.

We didn’t make it to every event but we did our best.  We started with Sports Night, on Thursday.  I went with my brother, my dad, and Antonio and Eli.  It was held right down town, across the street from the Basque Block in the same arena that the Boise hockey team plays in.  It was laid out with logs for the aizkolariak and stones for the harrijasotzaileak, as well as some other typical events.  Most I’d seen before, but there were a few, such as the relay carrying the heavy sack, that I did not.  One event, in which contestants try to pitch a bale of hay over a bar that is raised with each successful toss, was new to my uncle.  He had never seen that event in Bizkaia. At one point, two harrijasotzaileak “competed” with one another, each carrying a 100 lb stone around the arena.  One had to quit quickly, possibly having pulled something.  The other, though, hammed it up, engaging the crowd as he stood there, holding this huge stone in his lap.  When the night was over, children rushed into the arena, finding wood chips for the athletes to sign.

It was an interesting perspective, watching these events in this crowd.  On one side, I had my uncle, who is as much of a sports fan as any.  However, one thing you don’t realize as a Basque-American watching these sports, which we see only every so often in typically heavy doses, is that in the Basque Country, this is every day stuff.  As such, they don’t have such concentrated showings of it; festivals might have a few sporting exhibitions, but not hours worth.  My uncle was getting a little bored with it, though he of course got into it whenever things got exciting.  On my other side were some non-Basques who I guess had thought they’d check out some local color or something.  It was interesting and a bit odd hearing their commentary.  They sort of mocked what they saw, commenting on how simplistic the sporting events were, comparing them to the “sophistication” of American sports.  It showed they didn’t have much of a true idea of what the Basque Country is about and how this is one slice of the sporting scene in the Basque Country, maybe somewhat analogous to a rodeo in the US West.

On Friday, after attending NABO’s Annual Convention at which the New Mexico Euskal Etxea was officially accepted as a member, we headed to the Basque Block to check out the festivities.  And it was completely packed, from one end of the block to the other!  I must imagine that this was the best attended Jaialdi to date!  There were so many people that it was difficult to maneuver through the crowd.  It was that way Thursday night as well, though during the day, the heat added a level of discomfort.  But, people were singing, dancing, drinking and eating — generally having a wonderful time.  Again, I wondered about the demographics of the crowd.  It felt like there were just as many people who maybe had no Basque ties but were looking for a good way to spend the weekend.  This is a testament to the reputation of the Basques in Boise.

During the weekend, especially during the day, festivities moved to the Fair Grounds.  The official opening ceremonies were on Saturday morning and, as a representative of NMEE, I was asked to carry the New Mexico flag in the procession.  While waiting for things to start, I was able to wander a little behind the scenes, where the various dance groups were organizing themselves.  While adults shepherded children and tried to get them lined up in some semblance of an order, some of the groups did last minute practices of their dances.  Compared to when I was a kid doing these dances, there were a lot more groups with a lot more different costumes.  Especially noticeable were the girls’ dressed in blue, in contrast to the typical red, black, and white.  The opening ceremonies tried to bring together all of the groups who were to perform over the weekend, including the Klika from Chino, a number of groups from the Basque Country, and of course all of the dance groups from the US.  It was an awesome beginning to the weekend.

After that, all of my official duties were over, so I just enjoyed Jaialdi as much as I could.  My family joined me when they were able, and overall we had a wonderful time. This year, the vendor booths were moved inside to escape the heat and that was a superb change.  I remember last time that the heat (it reached 100 every day) and the wind kicking up the dirt at the fair grounds sometimes made being outside a bit unpleasant.  By moving the vendors indoors, they made that part much better than it had been.  A number of friends were manning booths, so it was great chatting with them, especially a few who I had only known before via Internet, not in person.

Truly, the best part of Jaialdi is seeing old friends and meeting new ones.  We ran into a lot of friends from our days in Seattle, who have a group that is going very strong, thanks in large part to the influx of new Basques into the area, who I had the great pleasure to meet.  We also ran into Joseba Etxarri, who is still a big fixture in many Basque festivals in the US.  One notable absence was Aita Tillouis, who passed away recently, but who was always a big presence in so many Basque gatherings.  But, it is the friends that make Jaialdi such a wonderful experience and, I have to admit, one of the things I lamented just a little.  Jaialdi has grown so big, it is less intimate, with so many people that you don’t bump into a friend around every corner, at least not as much.  Maybe for people who live in Boise it isn’t that way, but it was a little more that way for me than it had been in years past.  That said, it was still an awesome weekend and I’ll definitely be attending the next one in 2015.

Today in Basque History: Basque Poet Jailed, Boise Basque Icon

1943-03-241943: Pierre d’ Arcangues, Basque poet of Arrangoitze, is jailed by the German Gestapo.

1932: Mari Carmen Totoricaguena Egurrola Albizu, founder of Anaiak Danok and Biotzetik in Idaho, is born in Gernika. She also directed a chorus of Basque children for 20 years and organized the Aberri Eguna celebrations in Boise, Idaho. She immigrated to the United States in 1951.

Link dump

I’ve been meaning to share this set of links for a while and just thought I’d “dump” them on you before I either forget or they get outdated. :)

Last.fm, an online music station of sorts, has a channel dedicated to Kortatu and similar artists. I haven’t spent a lot of time with it yet, but if you are looking for some classic Basque rock, tune in here.

OK, this one I’m not sure what to make of… the concept looks intriguing, but I don’t think I understand it well enough.  Baskinbox seems to be a Basque gift box, with information about food, hotels, recreation, etc.  But, I’m not quite sure what is actually included in the box.  Can anyone help me out?

Aimee Eiguren, a very distant cousin of mine on my mom’s side, has a blog of her own, Bowl of Soul.  In her most recent post, she describes her first trip to Euskadi to visit the homes of her ancestors and shares a great recipe for Basque Omelette.

NABO, the North American Basque Organization, tries to help the various Basque clubs in efforts that are too big for any individual club.  This includes organizing summer camps for kids, hosting the national Mus championship, and much more.  On this page, they describe the ongoing effort to create a Basque Studies Consortium, the goal of which is to create a clearing house, of sorts, for Basque Studies, a place people can go and see what the most recent research in areas related to the Basques has uncovered.

The Nevada State Museum recently installed a 1902 Sheepherders Wagon, built for the Campbell Ranch.  According to the site, the first-ever sheepherders wagon was built by James Candlish of Wyoming in 1884, and it soon was adopted by sheepherders all over the American West.

Continuing the historical theme, this article in the Idaho Statesman describes the early history of the Basques in Boise, Idaho.  It focuses on their involvement in the restaurant and hotel businesses.  In particular, they quote an 1893 Stateman article that reported that “Yturraspe & Uberuaga will on Monday, January 1st, take charge of the City Restaurant and lodging house, which they have purchased from Russ Luark.”

This site, which gives a number of images on bordering of different styles, also has a page dedicated to Basque bordering.  I’m not sure how useful these images or these pages would be for one doing this kind of work, but maybe in the least these patterns will inspire.

An interesting little diversion, using a pattern you can download for free from this site, you can create a simple three-dimensional dodecahedron calendar in a number of languages, including Euskara.

The Taller de Artesania Lorratz has a great gallery of images, including paintings, drawings and mosaics.  The drawings, in particular, are of Basque buildings, with baserriak, churches, castles, and even a windmill.  The images are accompanied by the name and location of the building.  There are also some children’s arts and crafts images.

And, finally, for this update at least, NABO recently welcomed a new member to its fold.  Euskaldunak: Association des Basques du Quebec is the latest club to both become part of NABO and put a presence on the web.  The page, in both French and Euskara, seems to be still a work in progress, but there are photos and announcements regarding the group’s recent events.  Zorionak!